Customer Experience Leadership Glossary
How to cite terms: Cleveland, Brad, Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results, Kogan Page, London, 2021.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
AI artificial intelligence
CCO Chief Customer Officer
CEM customer experience management
CES customer effort score
CIO Chief Information Officer
CLE customer life expectancy
CLV customer lifetime value
COI cost of inaction
CRM customer relationship management
CSAT customer satisfaction or customer satisfaction score
CX customer experience
CXO Chief Experience Officer
ERP enterprise resource planning
EX employee experience
FCR first call resolution or first contact resolution
FTE full-time equivalent
HR human resources
IM instant messaging
IoT Internet of Things
IP intellectual property or internet protocol
IT information technology
IVA intelligent virtual assistant
IVR interactive voice response
KM knowledge management
KPI key performance indicator
LBS location-based services
ML machine learning
NPS net promoter score
QA quality analysis or quality assurance
ROI return on investment
RPA robotic process automation
SaaS software as a service
SLA service level agreement
SMS short messaging service
UX user experience
VoC voice of the customer
VoE voice of the employee
VR virtual reality
Glossary of Terms
Application Service Provider (ASP). An outsourcing business that enables other organizations to access and use technologies or services for a fee.
Architecture. The basic design of a system. Determines how the components work together, system capacity, ability to upgrade and ability to integrate with other systems.
Artificial Intelligence (AI). Refers to computer systems simulating human intelligence, i.e., in decision making, speech recognition and translation, and others.
Attrition (Employees). See turnover.
Attrition Rate (Customers). Also referred to as churn; the percentage of customers lost in a given period of time.
Augmented Reality. See virtual reality.
Authentication. Verifying the identity of a customer, user, or process.
Back Office. Business applications and functions that are “behind the scenes” to a customer, e.g., accounting, finance, inventory control, fulfillment, productions and human resources. See front office.
Balanced Scorecard. An approach to metrics and management that aims to gives managers a “balanced” view of performance by establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) in different categories. Common categories include customer, employee, financial, and process or organizational maturity.
Best Practice. Practices or procedures that have been proven across a large number of organizations or situations to be correct or most effective.
Big Data. Large sets of data that can be analyzed using software tools to identify trends, associations, or insight on specific issues or variables. See analytics.
Brand Advocate. See customer advocacy.
Brick and Mortar. The physical facilities in which an organization does business (versus online).
Business rules. A phrase used to refer to various software (or manual) controls that manage customer routing, handling and follow-up. At a basic level, business rules are a sequence of “if-then” statements. More advanced business rules can harness AI technologies. Often used interchangeably with workflow.
Business-to-Business (B2B). Business or interactions between businesses. See business-to-consumer.
Business-to-Consumer (B2C). Business or interactions between a business and consumers. See business-to-business.
C-Level. Refers to top-level leadership roles: chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), and others. Where the role is established, the chief customer officer (CCO) oversees customer experience management.
Career Path. Career paths guide individual employee development through structured advancement opportunities within a department or organization. See skill path.
Change Management. Refers to guiding the organization through complex change; generally refers to the people aspect of change. (In technology settings, change management can refer to rolling out new versions of software.)
Chatbot. A chat robot that can converse with a human user through text or voice commands. Related term: intelligent virtual assistant (IVA).
Chief Customer Officer (CCO). Also referred to as chief experience officer (CXO). The senior executive responsible for the design and coordination of all customer-related activities across the organization (CX Accelerator).
Chief Experience Officer (CXO). See chief customer officer.
Chief Information Officer (CIO). A typical title for the highest-ranking executive responsible for an organization’s information systems.
Cloud-Based Services. Software or services delivered “on demand” through shared services, over a network.
Co-Browsing. A term that refers to the capability of both an agent and a customer to see web pages simultaneously and share navigation and data entry.
Coaching Model. A structured approach to providing ongoing feedback to individuals on their performance, which helps set the expectations of agents, coaches and managers, and holds coaches accountable.
Collaboration Tools. Broadly refers to technology capabilities that enable a group of users to easily communicate and share information.
Contact History. The history of a customer’s interactions with an organization, generally recorded and stored in a customer information system.
Control Chart. A quality tool that provides information on variation in a process.
Core Values. A set of principles that determine how an organization does business with its employees, customers and vendors (CX Accelerator).
Cost/benefit analysis. A term used to describe the process of comparing the value of a potential project with the cost associated with implementing the project.
Cost Center. An accounting term that refers to a department or function in the organization that does not generate profit. Related term: profit center.
Cost of Inaction (COI). The costs of not moving forward with a project or not making CX improvements. These can include customer defection, brand damage, the costs of recurring problems, employee dissatisfaction and others. See return on investment.
Cross-Sell. A suggestive selling technique that offers additional products or services to current customers. Related term: upsell.
Customer Access Strategy. The overall strategy that defines how customers will interact with the organization. According to ICMI, it is “a set of standards, guidelines and processes describing the means by which customers and the organization can interact and are enabled to access the information, services and expertise needed.”
Customer Advocacy. Refers to the actions the organization takes to do what is best for customers, which, in turn, rewards the organization with loyal customers who become advocates (brand advocates) for the organization’s products and services.
Customer Effort Score (CES). A customer satisfaction metric based on surveys that ask customers to rate how easy it was to resolve their issues. Typically based on a 7-point scale from “very difficult” to “very easy.”
Customer Engagement. Organizational stakeholders from different functions work together to understand a customer’s needs and enhance the business relationship. (CX Accelerator)
Customer Experience (CX). Refers to all of the experiences customers have with an organization, including products, services, processes, policies, expectations, and other factors. More specifically, customer experience is: everything a prospect or customer hears about your organization; every interaction they have with your organization and its products and services; and, ultimately, how they feel about your organization. Related terms: customer advocacy, voice of the customer.
Customer Experience Management. The overall approach and specific steps involved in managing customer experience.
Customer Experience Management (CXM) Platform. A technology platform designed to perform core customer experience management tasks, such as funnel voice of the customer data into one system, organize, tag, show trends, establish scores, generate dashboards, illustrate return on investment (ROI), and provide suggestions on CX improvement.
Customer Journey. All interactions and touchpoints a customer has with an organization.
Customer Life Expectancy (CLE). Also called average customer lifespan. The average time (in days, months and years) that a customer is engaged or active with your organization.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Expresses the value of a customer to the organization over the entire probable time period in which the customer will interact with the organization.
Customer Loyalty. Typically defined in terms of the customer’s repurchase behavior, intent to purchase again or intent to recommend the organization. See customer advocacy.
Customer Persona. Written and/or graphical representation of the different customer segments a business is serving or targeting. (CX Accelerator)
Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The process of holistically developing the customer’s relationship with the organization. It takes into account their history as a customer, the depth and breadth of their business with the organization, and other factors.
Customer Satisfaction. The level of satisfaction customers have with the organization and the organization’s products and services. See customer loyalty.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). A metric that gauges customer satisfaction, based on variations of the question, “How would you rate your experience?”
Customer Segmentation. The process of grouping customers based on what you know about them, in order to apply differentiated marketing, relationship and service strategies.
Customer Sentiment. A reflection of how your customers feel about your products, services and organization; analysis of many types of feedback produces a customer sentiment metric you can track.
Customer Success. The methods or approach for ensuring that customers are successful in using a supplier’s products or services to achieve their objectives. Often used interchangeably with customer experience; however, the term is typically used in cases where customers are using technology-related products and services. See customer experience.
Dashboards. Easy-to-comprehend graphical reporting of critical KPIs and supporting metrics.
Data Mining. Generally refers to the use of analytics capabilities to analyze data, e.g., to identify trends and causal factors. Related terms: big data, analytics.
Digital Transformation. Broadly refers to harnessing digital technologies to improve efficiencies and create new or better experiences for customers and employees.
Employee Advocate. An employee who promotes and defends the company they work for, similar to customers who are brand advocates. Related term: customer advocacy.
Employee Engagement. Quantitative representation of the enthusiasm or emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and the work they do.
Employee Experience (EX). Similar to customer experience, but for employees. How employees perceive their total interactions with an organization. See employee engagement.
Empowerment. The authority and means provided to employees or customers to make decisions and take action.
Engagement Rate. The percentage of users who see a social media post and take action (e.g., share, reply or click to contact the organization).
Escalation. The process by which a customer is transferred to a specialist or a more senior representative (such as a supervisor or manager) to handle or resolve an issue.
Exit Interviews. Interviews with employees who are leaving the company or department, to gain candid and honest insight into why they are leaving, and ways the organization might improve to minimize turnover in the future. Can also refer to exit interviews with customers who have decided to no longer do business with the organization. See stay interviews.
Finesse Standards. Quality standards that measure how something was done. Performance can happen in degrees, and so finesse standards are usually measured on scales (often three- or five-point scales). Related terms: foundation standards, quality standards.
First Contact Resolution (FCR). The percentage of contacts that are handled to completion in the initial interaction. The customer does not need to contact the organization again, nor does anyone within the organization need to follow up.
Focus Group. A group of customers or prospects that participate in a discussion to provide candid feedback on the organization and/or its products and services.
Forecast Accuracy. Formulas that measure the accuracy of a forecast against what actually happened.
Foundation Standards. Quality standards that measure whether something was done. Performance can be objectively measured by a yes or no—the employee either did it or did not do it. Related terms: finesse standards, quality standards.
Freytag’s Pyramid. The components of an effective story, as identified by Gustav Freytag: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Front Office. Generally refers to customer-facing services and technologies. Related term: back office.
Full-Time Equivalent (FTE). A term used in scheduling and budgeting, whereby the number of scheduled hours is divided by the hours in a full work week. The hours of several part-time agents may add up to one FTE.
Geotagging. Technology that adds information on location to a photo, video, or social media message. With GPS-enabled smartphones, geotagging has become a core aspect of social media, search, photographs and location-based marketing and customer service.
Governance. The framework and team responsible for overseeing customer experience objectives, standards, policies and priorities.
Hashtag. In social media, a word or phrase preceded by the hash symbol (#), which enables users to find, sort or identify groups or topics (e.g., #customerexperience).
Histogram. A type of graph that illustrates the underlying frequency distribution (shape) of a set of continuous data.
Information Technology (IT). A generic term that refers either to computer and/or communications systems and technologies, or to the profession that develops and manages these systems.
Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA). Bots that emulate human conversations, and used in customer service, technical support, marketing and other applications. The term is often used to describe advanced chatbot applications. Related terms: chatbot, robotic process automation.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR). An IVR system responds to caller-entered digits or speech recognition in much the same way that a conventional computer responds to keystrokes or clicks of a mouse. When the IVR is integrated with database applications, customers can interact with databases to check current information (e.g., account balances) and complete transactions (e.g., make transfers between accounts).
Internet of Things (IoT). Extending internet connectivity to everyday objects such as washing machines, doorbells and refrigerators.
Job Description. An outline of the functions, responsibilities and requirements of a specific job.
Job Role. The function or responsibilities related to a specific position in an organization.
Journey Mapping. A visual tool used by organizations to tell the story of a particular type of customer’s experience. (CX Accelerator)
Key Performance Indicator (KPI). A high-level measure of performance. Some interpret KPI as the single most important measure in a department or unit; however, in common usage, most organizations have multiple KPIs. See performance objective.
Knowledge Management (KM). Developing and leveraging an organization’s knowledge resources to prevent the need for employees to “reinvent the wheel.”
Lean Six Sigma. A disciplined variation of Six Sigma that focuses on the elimination of different kinds of waste in production and service delivery. Related terms: system of causes, process, Six Sigma.
Location-Based Services (LBS). Services that are appropriate for or customized for specific locations. See geotagging.
Machine Learning (ML). Technology that enables programs to access and use data on their own, learn for themselves, and improve as they learn.
Managing Customer Feedback. The process by which an organization collects, analyzes and acts on customer feedback. This can be tactical (acting on feedback as it happens to solve problems or deliver personalized service) or strategic (collecting and analyzing feedback from many customers over time to look for recurring problems and opportunities).
Measure. A fundamental, quantifiable unit, such as length, amount or size. Examples include the time it took to process a claim, and number of customers served. See metric.
Mention. In social media, tagging a user’s or an organization’s account name or handle in a message. See sentiment analysis.
Metric. A quantifiable value that is often composed of more than one measure. For example, average cost of a service interaction incorporates both costs and the number of interactions. See measure.
Moments of Truth. The points in a customer relationship in which a business has the largest opportunity to either increase or decrease customer loyalty. (CX Accelerator)
Multichannel Attribution. In marketing, analytics that aim to understand how customers discover, evaluate, purchase, and use products or services. (Example: seeing a product in a social post, doing a search, visiting the website, making an inquiry through chat or call, and then making a purchase online or in a retail store).
Multimedia (MM). Combining multiple forms of media in the communication of information (e.g., a traditional phone call is “monomedia,” and a video call is “multimedia”).
Natural Language Processing (NLP). Enables computers to interpret, analyze and process human language.
Net Present Value. A method of determining the attractiveness of investments. The value of future cash flows over the life of an investment, discounted to the present.
Net Promoter Score (NPS). A specific methodology of gauging customer experience, based on the survey question, “How likely is it that you will recommend us to others?”
Omnichannel. Systems and methodologies that integrate multiple channels to create a seamless customer experience regardless of channel. Customers may start out in one channel (e.g., a social platform or website) and move to another (e.g., phone, text, or chat); regardless, an omnichannel approach enables the organization and customers to interact seamlessly across channels.
Onboarding. The process of integrating a new employee into an organization and its culture (e.g., through orientation, training, nesting, etc.). May also refer to familiarizing new customers or clients with the organization’s products and services.
Performance Objective. Usually stated as a quantifiable goal that must be accomplished within a given set of constraints, a specified period of time, or by a given date (e.g., reduce turnover by 20 percent within one year).
Performance Standards. See quality standards.
Performance Target. An interim improvement point at a specific point in time, when striving to attain a new level of performance. Related terms: key performance indicator, performance objective.
Personalization. Customizing services for the needs and characteristics of individual customers, e.g., an IVR greeting that recognizes customers by name, or web pages tailored to individuals.
Process. A system of causes. See system of causes.
Process Improvement. Methods that guide ongoing diagnosis and improvements to processes.
Process Mapping. A technique used to visually depict how work is done. Shows how events, resources, timelines and other variables interact to achieve a predictable outcome. (CX Accelerator)
Products or Services per Customer. A performance measure—a simpler variation of sales per customer—products or services per customer can be a measure of cross-selling effectiveness.
Profit Center. An accounting term that refers to a department or function in the organization that generates profit. Related term: cost center.
Project Management. An approach that keeps projects on track and within budget.
Propensity to Contact. The likelihood or number of times customers contact the organization, typically on an annual basis. Typically, a numerical correlation between total contacts and total customers—for example, 4 would mean customers contact the organization an average of four times per year.
Pulse Survey. A survey that consists of a short set of questions provided on a recurring basis (e.g., every one or two weeks).
Qualitative Analysis. Analysis that interprets descriptive data and is usually expressed as text. Related term: quantitative analysis.
Quality. The attributes or characteristics of a product or service. See quality standards.
Quality Management System. Can refer to either the technologies that enable quality management or, more often, the totality of the technologies, tools and methods an organization uses to manage and improve quality.
Quality Standards. Also referred to as performance standards. The requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics established for customer service and customer experience.
Quantitative Analysis. Analysis that focuses on numerical, mathematical or statistical data. Related term: qualitative analysis.
Relationship Survey. Also referred to as enterprise survey, a comprehensive survey that generates feedback on all key elements that can impact customer satisfaction. Questions on a relationship survey are broad and cover issues such as product quality, ease of use, price, service, and others. They are sent at random to a small percentage of customers on a regular basis. See transaction survey.
Retention. The opposite of turnover; keeping employees in the organization. See turnover.
Return on Investment (ROI). Strictly speaking, this is the net income or savings divided by the amount invested for a specific initiative. In customer experience, ROI has come to define an overall method of estimating the value of an investment. See cost of inaction (COI).
Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Software robots that automate tasks previously requiring humans—finding and maintaining information, calculations, transactions, and others. Related term: intelligent virtual assistant (IVA).
Root Cause. A primary cause of a problem or outcome. Can be identified through root cause analysis. See system of causes.
Self-Service System. Systems that enable customers to access the information or services they need without the help of an employee.
Sentiment Analysis. Tools and methodologies used to assess the nature of a customer’s views and feelings about an organization’s products, services and brand.
Service Level Agreement (SLA). An agreement—between departments within an organization or between a client organization and an outsourcer—that defines performance objectives and expectations.
Short Messaging Service (SMS). The communications protocol that mobile carriers employ to enable users to send and receive text messages.
Six Sigma. A disciplined process that focuses on developing and delivering near-perfect products and services. Sigma is a statistical term that measures process variation. Lean Six Sigma is a variation of Six Sigma that focuses on the elimination of waste. See system of causes.
Skill Path. Skill paths focus on the development of specific skills rather than the progression of positions through the organization. See career path.
Social Listening. The process of finding and assessing what is being said and written in social media about an organization, product, service, person or other topic.
Social Media Management. The technologies and processes for managing social media, engaging audiences and measuring results.
Span of Control. The number of individuals a manager supervises. A large span of control means that the manager supervises many people. A small span of control means that he or she supervises fewer people.
Speech Analytics. Broadly refers to analytics applied to speech content, e.g., to call recordings. Related terms: analytics, text analytics.
Standard. When related to customer service, standards refer to the requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics you establish for customer service and the experiences you want to create.
Stay Interviews. Intentional conversations with employees on why they stay— what they like about their jobs, the organization’s culture and benefits, career development opportunities that could further engage them, etc. See exit interviews.
Structured Feedback. Feedback that comes in an organized manner, the result of directly soliciting input from customers or employees. Surveys are a common example. See unstructured feedback.
System of Causes. The variables that are part of a process. Customer experience management is a process or system of causes, made of many processes. See process improvement.
Text Analytics. Broadly refers to analytics applied to text content, e.g., email or calls that have been converted into text documents. Related terms: analytics, speech analytics.
Text Messaging. Composing and sending short electronic messages between two or more users on mobile or other devices. See short messaging service (SMS).
Text-to-Speech (TTS). Enables a voice processing system to speak the words in a text field using synthesized—not recorded—speech.
Thread. A string of messages that make up a conversation, common in most forms of online communication.
Threshold. The point at which an action, change or process takes place.
Time to Proficiency. The time needed or taken by an individual to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to meet a specified level of performance.
Touchpoints. The different points in which a customer interacts with a business. Touchpoints are commonly used as part of the journey mapping process and typically include three phases—before purchase, during purchase, and after purchase. (CX Accelerator)
Transaction Survey. A survey that is specific to an interaction or service. Designed to tie satisfaction to specific touchpoints. See relationship survey.
Trend Analysis. Analysis that examines past and current activity to predict the future.
Trending. A topic that is popular on social media at a given moment.
Turnover. Also referred to as attrition. When a person leaves a job or department. Turnover can be categorized as voluntary (when the employee decides to leave) or involuntary (when management makes the decision for the employee to leave). It can also be categorized as internal (the employee leaves for another position within the organization) or external (the employee leaves for another organization).
Unstructured Feedback. Feedback from customers that is not organized into predefined categories or responses—for example, a social media post. It comes in many forms and tends to be impromptu. See structured feedback.
User-Generated Content. Content that is created and published online by the users of a social or collaboration platform.
Virtual Interviewing. Systems that ask candidates interview questions and record their answers for viewing at the organization’s convenience.
Virtual Reality (VR). An immersive, interactive, computer-generated experience. It can be similar to the real world—walking through an existing city or visiting a virtual store. Or VR can be otherworldly, e.g., with imaginary landscapes and very different living creatures. With augmented reality (AR), elements of the real world are “augmented” by computer-generated information (for example, virtually trying on different outfits).
Voice of the Customer (VoC). Broadly refers to tools, methods and collaboration that capture customers’ input and perceptions, seek to understand customer needs and wants, and use captured data to improve products, services and processes. See customer experience, managing customer feedback.
Voice of the Employee (VoE). Broadly refers to tools, methods and collaboration that capture employees’ input and perceptions, seek to understand the employee journey, and use captured data and input to improve the employee experience. See voice of the customer (VoC).
Voicebot. A voice-activated chatbot. See chatbot.
Wallet Share. The portion of a customer’s total spending in a product category that goes to a company or product. See market share.
Word of Mouth. Refers to customers telling others about their experiences.